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Disaster Management: A new response to emergencies

Softscape has introduced an emergency management system designed to ensure disaster victims receive rapid assistance. Its web-based platform is open to government agencies as they direct both citizens and agency workers through their crisis. Dave Watkins, founder and CEO, Softscape, explains the requirements that any such system must meet. Disaster Planning

Too often, disaster planning only focuses on how to move people out of an affected area, to coordinate recovery, and to build a bridge toward the rebuilding phase. The unfortunate reality of the recent events in the Southern United States spotlights a secondary crisis: the vast displacement of humanity and the short- and long-term assistance required before recovery can begin.

 

Softscape's CaseOne is intended for rapid response emergency management, supporting homeland security initiatives by enabling government agencies and first-response service providers to track and manage vital information in order to prepare for and expedite safe responses to disasters of any kind. Among the aims of a web-based system must be a centralised data repository of case information to improve identification and management of victims, and also to eliminate redundant data that impedes the flow of care to citizens.

Government agencies at all levels are constantly evaluating disaster readiness plans and assessing their ability to respond in times of crisis. Agencies need a people management platform so that they can manage the preparation of case workers, as well as the response to citizens from one single system.

 

Victim management

All levels of government must have access to a complete case management system in order to monitor relocated individuals and families, help find available shelter, coordinate service delivery and ensure the individuals receive the state and federal assistance available to them. Any such system must enable organisations to intake key victim information and refer citizens to available services more rapidly. Agencies will then be able to immediately begin identifying those in need, enter them into the system to coordinate care, and ensure that each citizen has access to the network of services mobilised to meet their immediate needs. Finally, the system must also enable remote field managers, emergency response staff, and service providers to gain access to critical data through PDAs, web-enabled cell phones, or laptops with cell modems. In addition, data must be automatically backed-up and stored offsite and accessed via a secure hosting facility.

 

In greater detail, victim management must provide its customers and users with the following:
  •  intake and eligibility processing to guide the case manager through the intake, eligibility, and screening processes, and provide validation checks to ensure eligibility;
  • housing and shelter inventory to track shelters and available inventory, including emergency supplies, food, and water;
  • shelter management to manage available shelter space for displaced citizens. Designated emergency shelters can include social services departments, mental health agencies, police, hospitals, schools, community services, universities, family/friends, churches, self-referrals, and other sources;
  • transportation manifest to track available transportation for displaced citizens during an emergency event. The system can log vehicles, certified drivers, and emergency routes and their availability;
  • emergency funds tracking and distribution management to monitor program payments rendered and remaining funds available in the event of another emergency; incident tracking to report incidents and determine procedures for resolving them;
  • waiting lists for services, based on a variety of criteria including available shelters or funds to provide services; and
  • disaster relief outcome and measurement to maintain service provider information and track service activities linked to programs.

Personnel management

Softscape CaseOne is designed to incorporate best-practice functionality from its existing human-capital management platform to ensure that personnel have the necessary skills and resources, that certifications are current, and that a succession plan is in place for each role. The (web-based) system includes workforce planning, recruiting, goal management, skill management, learning management, and succession planning for emergency readiness and disaster planning.

Systems of this type must be highly configurable and must be rapidly deployed around the world. Taking various factors in turn:

  • goal management enables emergency plan goals and objectives to be aligned and cascaded across multiple agencies;
  • skills management enables organisations to create a library of staff skills and identify any necessary training. By developing competencies and success metrics, organisations are able to identify education and training programs to fill critical needs;
  • skill gap analysis projects the differences between the current skill sets and what is needed. Gap analysis provides an immediate view of the risks to the organisation due to skill gaps and what actions can be taken to mitigate those risks;
  • certification management links certifications that are required for each position to individual employee certification. Certifications are supported through online courses, practice exams, skills assessments, and other learning tools that help employees to achieve industry certifications and accreditations;
  • learning and development means employees can be assessed from numerous perspectives including skill assessment, peer reviews, and leadership potential. Assessment results then serve as the foundation for development plans, whether to improve in a current position or in preparation for future positions in the organisation;
  • Expert Finder is a skill-matching tool within CaseOne that works directly with Skills Management below to find answers to problems by searching for workers with specific skills or knowledge; and
  • Succession Planning uses information collected within CaseOne regarding organisational needs, employee skills, and certifications to help managers identify, prepare, and track candidates to succeed key roles in the organisation. As key resources leave the organisation, gap analysis identifies employees who are candidates for promotion or transfer, and evaluates their potential for successful placement.

 

Of course, there are other key components of a solution of this nature:

  • role-based security permitting only authorised individuals to view and/or edit information in case files;
  • easy sharing of subsets of information with other state and federal agencies;
  • log maintenance related to each case and robust reporting tools to create custom reports and forms;
  • case-cycle automation, creating a standard assessment for victims that generates a profile of support needs, assigns each victim to an intensity of need level, and prioritises access to available resources;
  • a system of oversight, monitoring, and supervision of services must be developed throughout the system to ensure compliance with federal regulations, agency standards, and best practices; and
  • service reports must be submitted for each victim, including treatments provided by third parties, transportation, and medical/dental assistance so that they can be applied to various aid budgets, grants, and federal assistance programs.

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